Members of the task force team share simple meals during their days going patrol around the forest. — Photo giadinh.net.vn
NGHỆ AN — Patroling the most remote part of Pù Mát National Park to stop illegal hunting of animals and illegal logging is a tough job, but the dedicated members of the local forest task force are up to the challenge.
The national park covers Tương Dương, Con Cuông and Anh Sơn districts in the central province of Nghệ An and has more than 94,800ha of central zone and 86,000ha of buffer zone, housing more than 1,100 kinds of plants, 259 kinds of rare birds and many animals.
Special task force
The team was founded in May 2018 by Save Việt Nam’s Wildlife with 15 members, most of whom graduated from the Việt Nam National University of Forestry. To win a spot on the team you have to be healthy, love the forest and animals and have enough skills to live in the forest for a long time.
According to Nguyễn Hữu Trung, a member of the team, for a patrol trip in the forest, they need to carry medicine, first aid tools and mobile phones because they must come across hundreds of streams. They also have to consider other things like pots, bowls and dishes so that they are as light as possible.
Vi Văn Định, another member, said on the average, each member must carry about 20kg of gear.
The team’s food is roasted peanuts, dried fish and pork. The pork is fresh for the first few first meals only, and then it gradually gets worse but the team must try to eat because they do not have another source of meat.
Once, they brought some chicken and ducks along with them but they were eaten by foxes and weasels.
They have their main meals in the morning and evening. For lunch, they often have quick meals with dried provisions or uncooked noodles.
Their dinner starts early and at about 4pm, the team sets up tents and prepares for cooking because it gets dark quickly in the forest.
Travelling for long days in the forest also brings difficulties.
Task force member Lộc Văn Tạo still remembers the day when a member took a false step and fell from a high waterfall into a stream on January 6, 2020. He was unconscious and Tạo rushed to the stream to search for his comrade.
At that time, all the team was afraid he would die because he had lost so much blood. But the team gave him emergency aid, took turns to carry him on their back to the nearest village and he survived.
They also face water shortages during stays in high mountains. They must search for water in small caves and filter it using their shirts.
Trần Xuân Long, head of the Pù Mát National Park’s Mobile Forest Ranger Team, said the task force was a unique team in Việt Nam.
"Their work is very hard and dangerous, but they are still brave," he said.
For each patrol trip, they spend 10-12 days in the most remote parts of the forest.
Travelling in the forest, the team often encounters mosquitoes, flies, leeches and snakes. Sometimes they meet big animals such as wild elephants and boars.
Lê Tất Thành, head of the task force, said: “The animals have never attacked us. Maybe they know we are their friends.”
“We are very sad if we see animals struggle in iron traps. Some of them even die,” said Thành.
To prevent this, the team patrols regularly.
So far the team has conducted 270 patrols which last thousands of kilometres which they go on foot or by motorbikes.
They have removed more than 8,500 traps, destroyed more than 600 tents of forest destroyers and seized 63 shotguns.
The team is also on duty at supervision stations around the forest.
The forest now has 11 stations and each station has five people on duty.
Thành said that thanks to the regular patrols, there were fewer traps and more animals had come back to the forest.
“Seeing animals rescued, we forget all our tiredness. We consider it as miraculous medicine for us to continue our journey of protecting the forest and wild animals,” he said. — VNS